Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/31

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macy, for if Elizabeth did suggest such a plot, she cannot be credited with intending anything so foolish as to acknowledge it, or to accept the custody of the Scottish king. Moreover, on the supposition that there was a plot, the methods adopted by Gowrie and his brother to carry it out displayed a fantastic audacity, which, if consistent with sanity, indicates an amazing contempt for anything resembling precaution. As regards Gowrie himself, it must further be remembered that at first he was merely passive. Even supposing that the master intended to kill the king, the only suspicious circumstance in the conduct of Gowrie is his statement that the king had left the house; and, accepting the evidence against him as genuine, it does not show beyond doubt that the statement was not made in good faith. Before he entered his house with a drawn sword, he had been denounced and threatened by the king's attendants; and it was to revenge his brother's death, over whose bleeding body he had stepped, that he attacked his supposed murderers in the chamber. On the other hand, to exculpate Gowrie is not necessarily to inculpate the king. Indeed, all the weight of even circumstantial evidence is against the theory that the purpose of the king's visit to Perth was to effect the assassination of Gowrie or his brother. The question mainly turns on the character of the interview between the master of Ruthven and the king in the upper chamber; and unless the evidence of Henderson, the man in armour, be regarded as unimpeachable, it is impossible to decide conclusively as to the origin of the sudden quarrel which had such a tragic ending; for besides Henderson, who may or may not have been present, the only survivors of the interview were the king and Ramsay, to whom the master owed his death.

On 7 Aug. the privy council ordered that the corpses of Gowrie and the master of Ruthven should remain unburied until further order were taken with the matter, and also that no person of the name of Ruthven should approach within ten miles of the court (Reg. P. C. Scotl. vi. 145). Orders were also sent for the apprehension of the earl's brothers William and Patrick [see under Ruthven, William, first Earl of Gowrie], but they made their escape to England. The bodies of Gowrie and the master were embowelled and preserved by one James Melville, who, however, was paid for his services, not by the magistrates of Perth, but by the privy council; and on 30 Oct. they were sent to Edinburgh to be produced at the bar of parliament. On 20 Nov. the estates of the Ruthvens were discerned by parliament to be forfeited and their family name and honours extinct. The corpses of the earl and master were also ordered to be hanged and quartered at the cross of Edinburgh, and the fragments to be put up on spike in Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee, and Stirling. An act was further passed abolishing for ever the name of Ruthven, ordering that the house wherein the tragedy happened should be levelled with the ground, and decreeing that the barony of Ruthven should henceforth be known as the barony of Huntingtower (Acta Parl. Scot. iv. 212–13).

It must be confessed that the severity of the acts against the Ruthvens, and especially the merciless prosecution of the two younger brothers, who were then mere children, was scarcely justified by the character of the evidence adduced against them. It is by no means certain, even if they were the aggressors, that they intended to do more than wring from the king a settlement of their debts; on the other hand, the relentless procedure of the king suggests the suspicion that he was at least anxious to utilise to the utmost a favourable opportunity to get rid of his debts, not merely by the confiscation of the earl's estates, but by placing the whole family under the ban of the law. It is characteristic of James that he should have directed a special inquiry into the reputed dealings of Gowrie in the black art. Some absurd evidence as to Ruthven's practice of carrying supposed magical charms upon his person was adduced, on the strength of which, and similar tales, Patrick Galloway, in his sermon at the cross of Edinburgh, pronounced Gowrie to have been ‘a deep dissimulate hypocrite, a profound atheist, and an incarnate devil in the coat of an angel;’ and also asserted that he had been plainly proved to be ‘a studier of magic, a conjuror of devils, and to have had so many at his command.’ It is worth noting that similar charges of sorcery were brought against both his grandfather and his father.

[Cal. State Papers, Scot. Ser. and For. Ser. Reign of Elizabeth; Winwood's Memorials of State; Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland; Pitcairn's Criminal Trials; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vol. vi.; Acta Parl. Scot. vol. iv.; Moysie's Memoirs and History of James the Sext (Bannatyne Club); Spotiswood's History of Scotland; A Discourse of the Unnatural and Vile Conspiracy attempted against his Majesty's Person at St. Johnston's, 1600 (republished with additions by Lord Hailes, 1770, translated into Latin with addi-